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Krystian Zimerman gets rave reviews on new 'Karol Szymanowski: Piano Works' release / PolskieRadio

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A new CD from Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman has received highly favourable reviews from critics after it was launched by Deutsche Grammophon.

Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman returns to his roots to pay tribute to his compatriot Karol Szymanowski on the 140th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Having studied his solo piano works for decades, Zimerman presents a new album of richly varied repertoire spanning the period from 1899 to the mid-1920s. His aim is to shed new light on this less familiar aspect of Szymanowski’s output and help cement his reputation as one of the great composers of piano music. 

There is also a strong thread of friendship running through this album, linking both Szymanowski and Zimerman to legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein, and Zimerman to the world-renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. Coupling repertoire captured this year at the Toyota-designed concert hall in Fukuyama with previously unreleased recordings made by Zimerman in 1994, Karol Szymanowski: Piano Works will be released by Deutsche Grammophon on 30 September 2022 on CD and digitally, including an immersive surround sound version. A 2-LP edition will follow on 21 October.

 Polskie Radio writes…The CD features a selection of piano works by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, including his Masques Op. 34, four of his 20 Mazurkas Op. 50, four of his nine Preludes Op. 1, and Variations on a Polish Folk Theme Op. 10.

The website praises Zimerman’s pianistic skills, saying: “There are moments in Masques of quite terrifying ferocity, yet within the densest passages Zimerman maintains absolute clarity of each individual line, even when he is having to perform three staves' worth of music simultaneously!

"Similarly, in places such as the second variation from the Variations on a Polish Folk Theme, Op. 10, the thundering left-hand octaves never obscure the texture or the right-hand harmonies, whilst the sheer aural onslaught that is the funeral march of the eighth variation is mightily impressive, full of great weight and profundity without becoming turgid.”

The Presto Music critic says that in every bar of "this fine recording," Zimerman "demonstrates the keen intelligence, ever-thoughtful interpretative decisions, and staggering technical mastery.”

In its review of Zimerman’s CD, The Financial Times wrote: “The music has been chosen to show Szymanowski’s development through his life and the wide range of his piano pieces. It starts right at the beginning with four of the Préludes, Op 1, dreamily played, as if the pianist is improvising in the style of Szymanowski’s great Polish predecessor Chopin.

"From there it is a big leap to the Masques, Op 34, where Szymanowski’s fascination with the east evokes a wholly new atmosphere. Exotically sensual music shimmers up and down the keyboard, interrupted by momentary outbursts of violence.

"The mazurkas that follow are not like Chopin’s mazurkas at all, as one might have expected; Debussy is the closest match in this scintillating music’s impressionist sheen.

"Finally, Zimerman plays the better-known Variations on a Polish Folk Theme, Op 10. This is a tremendous showpiece, and played as such, Zimerman revelling in the multifarious challenges, leading to a barnstormer of a fugal finale. The whole disc is a delight and a discovery.”

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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